Saturday, July 3, 2010

Awesome Things about Korea #9: Exercise

Whether you're a serious athlete or outdoorsy person, or just looking to get in shape and be healthy, there are options for you.  Korea is a wealth of places to run, bike ride, walk, and exercise.  I already touched on the joys of bike riding in an earlier post, but there are other ways to get your fitness and recreation going.

If you look around your neighborhood, you're likely to find a gym nearby.  They're usually labeled as "Health and Fitness Clubs" (헬스 & 휘트니스 클럽), so be on the lookout for a sign like that.  Gyms are pretty cheap by month compared to back home, and you can get great discounts by signing up for a package of 3 months or more.  If you're willing to pay a little extra you can take special classes that the gym offers.

A little harder to find are swimming pools in Korea, but they do exist.  They're called 수영장 in Korean, so you can do a Google Maps search in your area or ask a Korean friend/co-teacher where one might be located.  Pools here are mostly indoor, and have well-defined rules about the kind of suits you can wear, swim caps, and swimming hours.  The rules might vary depending on location.  I do know that there is an outdoor pool (at least one) in the Han River Park in Seoul, near Yeouido Station.

But what if going to the gym or pool isn't your thing?  Well, you can break a sweat playing basketball, tennis, or even badminton at outdoor courts.  These are most commonly located next to or near schools and universities, so check around those buildings for spots.  I know that here in Gwangju many people like to go to the World Cup stadium, which is a multi-use facility.  There's even recreational soccer teams that you can join, mens' and womens'.  In addition, many cities and towns now are improving their park systems, offering more open green spaces that you can go to walk, bike ride, or run.  The city of Gwangju has spent a lot of time and money in recent years improving the park and paths along the river, and it definitely shows.  I plan to ride along the whole river on my bike one day this summer.

What if you're into more extreme outdoors recreation?  Then head to the nearest mountain and enjoy some scenic hiking.  With about 70% of Korea's land covered by mountains, there's definitely one nearby if not within easy reach!  Make sure to take some trail munchies and plenty of water with you--and if you're heading up in the spring or fall, a light jacket.

There are also rock climbing gyms if you're into more of a low-key mountain experience.  You can find more information about rock climbing at Korea On The Rocks.

So whatever you like to do in your free time to get the blood pumping and the muscles moving, there's something for you.  And if you're looking to do something new, why not get together some other Korean or foreign friends and try it together?

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